Species Profile

Fragrant Popcornflower

Scientific Name: Plagiobothrys figuratus
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: British Columbia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2008
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Fragrant Popcornflower


Two subspecies of Fragrant Popcornflower are recognized: Plagiobothrys figuratus ssp. figuratus and Plagiobothrys figuratus ssp. corallicarpus. Since the species is represented in Canada by only the figuratus subspecies, the name Fragrant Popcornflower is used here without specifying the subspecies.



Fragrant Popcornflower is a showy annual herb 10 to 45 cm high. It has hairy stems and fragrant white flowers with a yellow eye. The lower stem leaves are opposite and the upper stem leaves are alternate. The lower leaves are long and narrow, and the upper leaves are shorter and wider. The flowers, which are 5 to 10 mm wide, grow at the tips of slender branched stalks. Each plant can produce several of these flower clusters. At maturity, the sepals surrounding the base of the flowers turn reddish-brown and are densely hairy. Each flower produces four small wrinkled fruit that vary in length from 1.2 to 1.7 mm. Each fruit, called a nutlet, contains a single seed. In Canada, the species may be confused with Scouler’s popcornflower. Scouler’s popcornflower grows in similar habitats but its flowers are much smaller.


Distribution and Population

Fragrant Popcornflower has been observed from southeastern Vancouver Island in British Columbia south to Oregon west of the Cascade Mountains and east to the Columbia River gorge in Washington. The corallicarpus subspecies is found in only southwestern Oregon, where its range overlaps with that of the more common figuratus subspecies. Fragrant Popcornflower occurs as an introduced species in parts of southern Alaska and the eastern United States. In Canada, Fragrant Popcornflower was first observed in 1885, near Victoria. It is known historically from 7 to 12 independent localities. In 2002, after unsuccessful searches, it was thought to have been extirpated from Canada. However, in 2005, a single flowering plant was observed on Hornby Island, off the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island; however, no plants were seen there in 2006. The species is likely extant in the form of seeds in the soil. Although the data are insufficient to reveal fluctuations in the population of Fragrant Popcornflower, the trend to a total decline is unquestionable. Given the showy bloom of Fragrant Popcornflower and the fact that most historical records appear to originate from areas that are now well populated and/or partially urbanized, it seems unlikely that this species, if it is still present, has been overlooked on southeastern Vancouver Island for the past 25 years. The lack of observations combined with the recent loss of habitat to residential development leads us to believe that there is a strong likelihood that the species has now been reduced in Canada to a single remaining population fragment on Hornby Island.



Fragrant Popcornflower prefers low-lying, wet areas and is usually found in moist fields and open meadows and occasionally along watercourses and ditches. The only site in Canada currently known to support the species is in a grassy, undeveloped waste area adjacent to a road and housing development on the shore of Hornby Island. Increasing urbanization of southeastern Vancouver Island, combined with the draining of wetlands for agricultural uses and road construction, has altered the ecology of the region to such an extent that the amount of area suitable for Fragrant Popcornflower is now significantly reduced from historical levels.



In British Columbia, flower stalks develop in early summer and flowering commences in May or June. Each plant may produce several of these inflorescences composed of many flowers. Reproduction is by seed, with each flower producing two to four fruit, each of which contains a single seed. By mid-summer, when drought conditions are prevalent, seed set has occurred and the plant dies. Dispersal patterns in Fragrant Popcornflower are unknown; however, given its preferred habitat, it is possible that the species relies partly on water for the dispersal of its seeds. It was recently discovered, in western Oregon, that Fragrant Popcornflower forms a close relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. Generally, such relationships are very beneficial to the host plant because they facilitate the absorption of water and nutrients from the soil and increase the plant’s resistance to drought and soil-borne pathogens, thus improving the plant’s ability to withstand harsh conditions.



Urbanization is likely the primary reason that this species has largely disappeared from its Canadian range: the majority of former habitats were located in what are now the cities of Nanaimo and Victoria. One of the greatest current threats to the persistence of Fragrant Popcornflower in Canada is the small size of the population. The extremely small population of Fragrant Popcornflower is highly vulnerable to stochastic environmental events such as drought, disease or animal disturbance. Another immediate threat to the survival of Fragrant Popcornflower on Hornby Island is probably competition from invasive alien plant species, especially perennial ryegrass, colonial bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass. Ongoing residential development in the area also poses a major potential threat to this species and its habitat. Specific development plans for the site occupied by Fragrant Popcornflower are unknown at this time.



Federal Protection

The Fragrant Popcornflower is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

In British Columbia, Fragrant Popcornflower is not protected under any provincial statute.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Fragrant Popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Team

Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team

  • Conan Webb - Chair/Contact - Parks Canada
    Phone: 250-478-5153  Send Email



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the fragrant popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus) in Canada (2008)

    Fragrant popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus) is a showy annual herb belonging to the Borage family and is native to the Pacific Northwest. It has fragrant white flowers and hairy stems. Plants range in height from 10-45 cm. The Canadian plants are recognized as ssp. figuratus. This is the only subspecies in Canada. A second subspecies, Plagiobothrys figuratus ssp. corallicarpus, is endemic to Oregon.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Fragrant Popcornflower (2008)

    Although only a single plant was seen in 2005 and none in 2006, the species is likely extant in the form of seeds in the soil. The species’ potential for continued survival is at risk from on-going threats to its habitat from such factors as loss of habitat due to urbanization/development, environmental and demographic stochasticity, and competition from native and alien plant species.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Fragrant Popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus) in Canada (2013)

    The Canadian population of the Fragrant Popcornflower (Plagiobothrys figuratus) was assessed as Endangered in 2008 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and in February 2010 the population was listed as Endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA) affording it legal protection. The Fragrant Popcornflower is a showy annual herb with fragrant white flowers and hairy stems ranging from 10-45 cm tall. The native range of this species extends from southeastern Vancouver Island south to Oregon, west of the Cascade Mountains. In Canada, Fragrant Popcornflower was found historically along the southeastern coast of Vancouver Island from Comox to Victoria. The species was recently thought to have been extirpated from Canada, until a single flowering plant was observed on Hornby Island in 2005 (COSEWIC 2008). The Canadian population of Fragrant Popcornflower comprises


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species (2009)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 20, 2009 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 19, 2010 for species undergoing extended consultations.